Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Why do people kiss under poisonous berries?

Posted: December 2, 2011 at 17:47 pm Author: Caroline Bennett

As part of Westonbirt's programme of family activities this winter, Westonbirt's education team have created a trail that explores winter traditions from around the world.

Caroline Bennett, Westonbirt's Education Officer, researched the trail and uncovered some fascinating facts about the trees and plants which are central to so many of these traditions and beliefs.

Why do people kiss under poisonous berries?


Before Christianity, Celtic tribes celebrated the winter solstice (the shortest day - 21 Dec), when they believed that the sun was reborn and the new year began.

Mistletoe is a plant that grows on the branches of trees after the seeds are spread there by birds. It has white, poisonous berries and pairs of green leaves.

Pagans living in Britain thousands of years ago believed that mistletoe was magical because it grew without roots. It was felt that hanging it in the entrance to their homes brought health and happiness to all who came through the door. As mistletoe was such a lucky plant to them, kissing underneath it was considered a promise of eternal friendship.

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